Following the forceful recommendation of the Falls Church Public Schools’ Interim Superintendent Dr. Robert Schiller to “hold your nose and vote yes for this,” the Falls Church City Council voted unanimously (David Snyder absent) 6-0 to approve a supplemental allocation of $2,143,000 to cover the increased cost of a renovation and expansion of the Mt. Daniel Elementary School to begin when school lets out in June.
Schiller cautioned the Council that contracts for sub-contractors on the $15 million are due to expire the end of this week, precluding desires by some on the Council to postpone action further. It was reported that since first the bids for the work were opened in February, revealing that costs had ballooned over $2.5 million above earlier projections, the Schools worked with the contractor, Grunley Construction, to shave $510,000 off that increase, lowering the amount of new money needed to just over $2 million.
While the project will now proceed to provide an additional 58,218 square feet to Mt. Daniel, increasing its student capacity from 275 currently (without temporary trailers) to 660, the other shoe that fell Monday night was the revelation that in order to meet enrollment growth expectations over the next decade, another roughly $10-12 million is going to be required for a further expansion of the Thomas Jefferson Elementary, whose current enrollment is 832, nine above its present capacity even with trailers. Schiller announced the School Board authorized him to proceed to obtain an architectural feasibility report due in mid-May to add 18 new classrooms at the current TJ site to meet enrollment growth projections for the next 15 years.
The latest iteration of School Board plans involve keeping Mt. Daniel serving kindergarten and first grade, with the addition of preschool from the Thackrey School site,and relocating the School Board’s central office to the Thackrey site, saving $365,000 annually that is expended in the current lease, expiring June 2019, on a public site. Grades 2-5 will remain at TJ.
None of this touches on the work being done to expanded Mary Ellen Henderson and build a new George Mason High School on the west end school property, although all the pieces of the puzzle are interrelated, as was pointed out Monday night.
Of the $2.143 million voted up Monday, $901,818 will be transferred from two School-related CIP projects, $235,000 from the School Board operating budget and $1,006,082 through the appropriation of new funds